Edible Flowers

A group of flowering plants that are most often used to garnish or enhance the appearance and flavor of various foods. The petals or the entire flower can be placed into, around, or on foods for the desired results. As another alternative, the petals can be candied and served as a sweet addition with different types of food. When the flower petals are to be consumed, make sure they are cleaned thoroughly and have not been exposed to or contain chemicals and pesticides. Since some flowers may be poisonous or contain strong allergens, identify the flower type before assuming it can be consumed. Do not attempt to consume petals that are from unknown varieties of plants or flowers. Make sure the identification is correct to be confident it is an edible variety, or if not edible, make sure it has not been used simply as a decoration that comes in contact with the food being consumed. It is always wise to consider buying flowers from food stores or speciality stores, where the variety is identified and classified as Edible. Edible Flowers grown from seeds should be picked early or late in the day to assure they contain as much moisture as possible. Select flowers with healthy looking petals and stalks, removing the bitter tasting pistils, stamens and white section at the base of the petal. If flowers are to be stored, keep them refrigerated or placed in water prior to serving. Flowers can be tightly wrapped and stored refrigerated for up to a week however, it is always best if possible, to serve shortly after picking.

A few of the common varieties that are grown for use as Edible Flowers include: begonia, calendula (pot marigold), carnation, cornflower, chrysanthemum, daylily, dill, scented geranium, gladiola, hibiscus, honeysuckle, impatiens, Johnny jump-up, lilac, miniature or wild rose, nasturtium, pansy, sweet pea, tuberous begonia, and violets. Some of the common herb, vegetable or fruit flowers include: anise hyssop, arugula, basil, calamint, chamomile, dill, flowering thyme, garlic chive blossom, lavender wand, orange, peach and plum blossoms, sage blossom, and squash blossom.

A brief description of the characteristics of several flowers may be helpful to explain how to use Edible Flowers: Calendula flower petals (pot marigolds) have a slightly bitter or peppery flavor while offering very pleasing colors for appearance in salads or other foods. They can be added like saffron to rice or soups to create a pleasing golden yellow coloring to the food being prepared. Scented geraniums and Johnny jump-ups are very similar to pansies in appearance, use, and taste, providing a mint-like flavor for salads, desserts, and chilled summer soups. Lilacs are a nice addition to salads, providing a distinctive lemon flavor. Miniature roses provide petals that most often are added to jellies or syrups for a mildly sweet flavor, but also can be used to decorate cakes and other desserts. Nasturtiums, which are always a colorful addition to any food, provide a peppery flavor that is often considered best suited for salads. Tuberous begonias, which come in a number of different colors, add a fresh appearance and lively flavor to many salads. The begonia has a slightly tart citrus flavor and a crunchy texture that provides a distinctively different, yet enjoyable salad ingredient.

The herb flowers range from sweet to bitter in taste, but all are quite small in blossom size. Anise hyssop provides a long narrow lavender colored herb flower that is sweet and nicely aromatic to enhance many sweet desserts. The small flowers growing from the herb known as lemon-scented thyme are very delicate and well suited for decorating salads, with a flavor that provides a mint-like overtone to the food. Similarly, calamint and lavender wand, grown as a stalk of protruding small flowers, provide a sweet-flavor that enhances a variety of sweet desserts. The blossoms of the garlic chives are round and full, providing a distinctively garlic or onion flavor that complements many fried or sautéed foods. Squash blossoms, such as zucchini blossoms, are very versatile, for use in stir-fries, sautés, and steamed foods, or served fresh in salads and cold foods. The blossoms provide a very mild flavor, most often similar to the type of squash providing the blossom.

To candy edible flower petals, select clean petals that have sufficient size to be candied, such as rose petals. Moisten the petals with a wash of beaten egg whites. The wash can be applied with a soft bristled brush to the delicate petals or the entire flower. The petal can then be dipped into, wiped, and/or sprinkled with super fine sugar. Remove the excess from the petal by gently shaking the petal. Lay the petal on wax paper and allow it to dry thoroughly, which may require 4 to 8 hours. The candied petals can now be used with desserts, sorbets, beverages, toppings, butters, spreads, and other foods.

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